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How to Make This Your Most Successful Year Ever as a Freelance Writer: 6 Things to Do You Probably Never Thought Of

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993. I’ve worked on both sides of the hiring formula – as an employer who hires freelancers (I owned an editorial staffing agency in New York for almost a decade (1996-2004)), and as a freelancer for hire.

Over the years, my income has been rocky – from barely making it, to ‘Man, I can’t believe I earned that much!’ (to the point where the taxes I owed Uncle Sam equaled/exceeded what I earned in income some years).

I say all this to say — I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly as a freelance writer. Looking back, I can clearly see some mistakes I made that would have made my financial journey much less ‘rollercoasterish.’ And that’s what I want to share with you.

6 Things to Do That Can Earn You More as a Freelance Writer in 2015

You don’t have to make the same mistakes I did to learn from them. Following are six things you can do that can make 2015 your best year ever as a freelance writer.

1. Spend Money to Make Money

I have a lot on my plate as a freelance writer, eg, writing and self-publishing my own line of non-fiction and fiction ebooks; operating an SEO writing company; and developing/administering e-courses; etc.

One of the things I’ve learned is that – particularly to grow – you have to spend money to make money.

How to Earn More as a Freelance Writer in 2015This can encompass many things, eg, taking a class to help you learn a new skill; hiring a virtual assistant (VA) to help you manage your daily workload; outsourcing work to other freelance writers when things get to busy; spending a little on sites like Fiverr to set up/manage stuff you don’t have time for or have the know-how to do (eg, create an ebook cover, set up/manage a social media page, get sales leads); etc.

The bottom line is, you don’t know everything and you can’t do everything. Spending money to increase your knowledge and/or hire people to help you is the best investment you can make in your freelance writing business simply because it gets you to the next level quicker.

It’s a lesson I wish I’d learned earlier. I definitely would have hired a VA earlier – and I would have outsourced to other freelancers more too. Now, I don’t even hesitate.

Need someone to set up a new social media page? Head to Fiverr to find someone who can do it in minutes.

Need someone to clean up my hacked blog? Email my tech guy whose contact info I keep flagged in my Inbox.

Need someone to handle a new WordPress install? Email that blog guy I’ve been using for years that I found on Craigslist.

Sure these things costs – but it’d cost me much more to stop writing on my latest ebook or finishing up a client project to figure out how to do it myself. Spending money to make money is a no-brainer for me – and I see how it’s added to my production, which has added to my bottom line over the last few years.

2. Automate

Piggybacking on the first point here, time is your greatest asset as a freelance writer (business owner). How you use it directly correlates to how much you earn. So automate as much as you can.

Some Things You Can Automate as a Freelance Writer

Three quick things come to mind.

Social media posts;

Newsletters/blog posts you’ve pre-written (or hired someone to pre-write). FYI, I use AWeber for my newsletters; and

Email (an auto responder with a pre-written message so you don’t have to constantly check in or get back to people). FYI, see this post for two good automated responses from Tim Ferris, author of The New York Times best seller, The 4-Hour Workweek.

All of these can be major time sucks (especially email and social media). By NOT constantly checking these two, you can save a few hours per day. Think how much better that time can be spent?

FYI, here’s a post that gives some more time-management/productivity tips that can help you find more hours in the day.

3. Think Globally

In this post, a freelancer wrote to me, frustrated at how business was conducted where he lived. Clients wanted face to face meetings and he didn’t want to be tied to that type of business; that lifestyle. One of the things I advised him to do was think globally, writing:

The world is your marketing base when you freelance as a writer online. You don’t have to be just limited to your geographic area. For example, I’ve worked with clients in Canada, Ireland, England and Australia to name a few. None of them batted an eye that I was American. All they cared about was my ability to deliver what they wanted – on time and within budget.

Freelancing is a Global Phenomenon: Don’t Limit Yourself to Your Back Yard

To further underscore the above point, consider the following (Source: Elance-Odesk Global Online Work Report):

Over 180 countries served;

9.3 million freelancers registered;

3.6 million businesses registered;

Over 2.7 million jobs posted;

Freelancers earned over $900 million;

There are over 2.5K skills available via the site (various jobs you can hire freelancers for).

FYI, Writing & Translantion earned freelancers the third most amount of money (outpaced by Technology and Admin Support).

Again, the world is your oyster as a freelancer – especially if you have tech, admin and/or writing skills.

4. Specialize

I firmly believe in this concept – have for years. I explained why in a hub I wrote a few years back, saying:

When I first started offering SEO content, I pitched myself as an SEO writer who specialized in providing general real estate and mortgages content. And guess what? My very first SEO article writing job was writing content on mortgages for an internet marketing firm in Canada. [And]

When you’re a niche writer, you tend to develop a large body of knowledge on the subject at hand…. you know how valuable “speed writing” can be to your bottom line. It cuts down immensely on the amount of research you have to do … This, in turn, means you can produce more copy, which means you can make more money …

And this is the gist of it – you become an expert when you specialize. Clients tend to pay more for experts than for generalist AND you can charge more/turn out copy quicker because you become intimately familiar with it.

5. Get Regimented to “Start”

What I mean by this is, set a schedule for yourself like you have a regular day job. I’m not saying you have to act like a 9-to-5 employee, but if you have a regular, regimented, time-blocked schedule, you’re much more likely to achieve your goals.

And this is because being regimented doing the same things on a pre-determined schedule day in and day out – forces you to “start”. How important is this simple step? Very … and science backs it up. The LifeHacker article, How Our Brains Stop Us From Achieving Our Goals (and How to Fight Back), explains it this way:

… starting … triggers our brain in a different way. It’s the same way that cliffhangers are utilized to keep us coming back to our favorite TV shows; we’re primed to remember the last episode because the story was interrupted, and our brain wants a conclusion. It’s the same with your tasks: start, and your brain will overcome the first hurdle.

This seemingly small milestone appears to be the most important one to overcome if you wish to defeat procrastination.

I work anywhere from 7 to 10 hours per day. Now, I may stop for an hour or so to watch a Law & Order or Judge Judy episode; or, to cook, but for the most part, I work all day every day (M-F) just like I would at a regular job. It helps that I enjoy what I do, but the main reason is, I know that if I don’t stay regimented, my income will suffer.

6. Ask

I’ve seen this time and time and time again – freelancers who do everything but ask for the business (for the writing job). I see it on shows like The Profit and Shark Tank – a lot! The millionaires on these shows — who fund fledgling business ventures with their own cash — are always astounded, saying stuff like, “Why didn’t you just ask for the business?!” It frustrates them to no end when it happens because it’s such a simple thing to do.

The lesson I took from that is to get in the habit of saying to prospects and existing clients something like, “What do we need to do to close the deal today?” Or, “How can I get a yes today?” Or, “What’s keeping you from saying yes today?”

This does two things: (i) It lets prospects/clients know you’re ready, willing and able to take on the work NOW; and (ii) it gives you an idea of how serious they are about a possible job. You see, many times, clients/prospects talk about work they want to have done, but it’s in the “to get around to” stage in their head. But sometimes it can be moved front and center for them if you show them, “Hey, I can knock this out for you no problem right now if we can agree on x and y.

So start outright asking for the job. The worst that can happen is they say no. Even if you only picked up a few extra jobs a year because you started interacting in this manner, think of how much it can add to your bottom line – especially if it becomes an ongoing assignment like weekly blogging, or writing quarterly case studies, or writing regular web content.

Freelance Business Tip: Filling your head with brain food like the two shows mentioned here can teach you a ton. I’ve learned more about business from watching these shows than I could possibly put a value on.

One More Thing

Notice I didn’t mention the usual tips about marketing, raising/lowering your freelance writing rate(s), expanding/contracting your service offerings, or diversifying your income streams. These are all things you should be doing as a matter of course, which leads me to my last – bonus — tip ….

Act Like a Freelance BUSINESS

If you think like this from day one, you’ll address these things as a matter of course. I flew by the seat of my pants when I first started freelancing – did it for years. Then, I got a business mentor whose number one piece of advice to me was to ‘pay attention to your numbers.’

When I started doing this, it forced me to address business norms like my pricing; the services I offered and how much I was earning from each one; how much marketing I had to do to land a client; developing multiple income streams; etc. These are business basics – ones you must get a full handle on in order to be successful.

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Become a Freelance Writer: 4  Reasons Why

It seems like every year I say this, but it seems that it’s more true than ever … There’s never been a better time to become a freelance writer. Proof?

I. Millions are freelancing: Over 53 million Americans according to recent surveys; millions more worldwide according to the Elance-Odesk survey mentioned above).

II. It’s well-paying: According to the U.S. Dep’t of Labor, the median salary for writers/authors is $55,940 per year.

III. Companies are investing in it: Proof? Consider the following from the 2015 Content Marketing Institute Benchmark Report.

B2B marketers from companies of all sizes—and across all levels of effectiveness—are creating more content (70%).

42% of companies publish content daily or multiple times per week.

55% of businesses say they will increase spending on content marketing next year.

The most effective marketers allocate 37% of their budgets to content creation on average; the overall average is 28%.

IV. Companies need – and hire – qualified freelancers: 72% of large companies and 33% of small companies use a combination of in-house and outsourced resources for content creation. (Content Marketing Institute). Following are some more random stats to support this point, taken from this post.

2 out of 3 of businesses hire a writer or an editor as their first person aboard a content marketing team (source)

Content creation and management now claim the second largest share of digital marketing budgets (source)

Even though 62% of marketers blogged or planned to blog in 2013, only 9% of U.S. marketing companies employed a full-time blogger (source)

B2B marketers cite lack of time (69%), producing enough content (55%) and producing the kind of content that engages (47%) as their top three content marketing challenges (source).

So if you have the desire, as these stats show, the demand is there – for qualified, freelancer writers who are willing to work hard.

Does this sound like you?

Share Your Thoughts

What do you plan to do to earn more as a freelance writer next year? Do you think you’re going to earn more, or less? Why? Please share in the comments section below.

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